What do your tattoos mean?

Oh how I just love getting asked this on a weekly basis…

Well – for those of you who have wondered (and those who don’t give a rat’s ass) – below I’ve laid out each tattoo and its special meaning to me. All three of my tattoos are on my right arm and belong to a theme: places I’ve lived that have impacted me in inexplicable ways.

Tattoo #1 – the key

Oh my beloved key. This one is a tribute to my second homeland: Germany. I first stepped foot in Germany when I was 13 years old. My family and I made the trip across the pond for the 2006 World Cup and I was absolutely in LOVE with the place. People were friendly, but not over-the-top, food was yummy and fresh and the weather was phenomenal – even in the summer, which was a major plus to this southern girl.

My junior year at KU, I studied abroad for a semester in Regensburg. I minored in German Studies in college and had planned on studying in Germany for a semester since I was in high school.

The six months I spent in Regensburg changed me in more ways than one. It was the first time I lived alone, and if you know me, you know I used to hate being alone. I did everything I could to stay busy and be surrounded by people to block out the damaging thoughts going on in my mind. I also first injured my back when I was living in Germany. There was no accident, no fall, just woke up one day with insufferable back pain and a searing burning feeling going all the way down my leg to my toes.

Great. Here I am, in this beautiful country, and I’m immobile. After three trips to the ER, two ambulance rides, three days in the hospital, a creepy male nurse who hit on me while changing my IV (and then proceeded to LOOK ME UP on Facebook from my patient file and BRING IT UP in conversation as if it was NORMAL), tests, MRI, etc. etc., I found out I had two herniated discs at the bottom of my spine. The doctor told me he wanted to operate on it but I said hellllll no! My family is 5,000+ miles away I am not having major surgery all alone.

Alone. Thats what I was – a 21-year-old American girl in a German hospital with no A/C, no hospital gown, just my three-day old clothes and a book: Eat, Pray, Love. (Shoutout to Elizabeth Gilbert  because her book kept me inspired when I really wanted to crawl into a black hole and never come out.)

Fast forward to pain managed by drugs and several awesome weekends traveling Europe and I still had the most incredible six months of my life that year. Aside from my foreign hospital experience, I learned how to live alone and enjoy it. I learned how to converse with locals in German. I learned how to navigate cities where I didn’t speak the local language. I learned what it meant to truly o p e n  your eyes and take in each and every moment; experiencing foreign cultures wholeheartedly. Once you immerse yourself in a new place, where you know nobody and have no connections, you find out how large our world is and how small you are.

So, why the key? 

Well, Regensburg’s flag is this:

source: wiki commons

But, I knew I wanted mine on the outside of my forearm, so I opted to have just the one key. Here’s mine:
My first tattoo. My tribute to Germany. My reminder that I can get through anything and come out stronger on the other side.

Tattoo #2 – the diamond

The smallest of my three tattoos, but the one nearest my heart. In case you didn’t know, I was born and raised in Arkansas. My grandparents, parents, three of my four siblings and all my nieces and nephews still live in Arkansas. In fact, they’re all within a 3-mile radius of each other. I know…we’re almost annoyingly close as a family. But I LOVE us Barlings for it. 🙂

Arkansas is where I had my first school dance, my first kiss, my first hike, my first soccer game. Putting it shortly: I experienced a lot of life’s big “firsts” in Arkansas. Family means more to me than anything  and my fondest memories reside in the Natural State. My diamond tattoo is a tribute to my childhood, my family, my home.

Tattoo #3 – the sunflower 

“Despite knowing they won’t be here for long, they still choose to live their brightest lives.” – the sunflower, by Rupi Kaur

Wow. What a beautiful thought and one I like to apply to real life. Most people are here on this planet for 100 years or less and in the grand scheme of things, that isn’t a very long time.

Sunflowers have always been my favorite flower. I hate how over-used roses are and would rather receive a sunflower any day. I’ve always been drawn to them; their bright colors, big “faces”, long stems. They stand tall and regal – proud.

The wild sunflower is also the state flower of Kansas, where I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Those four years were a magical time. So many exciting and new endeavors. New friends, new hurdles, new accomplishments. My journalism career exploded at KU and I owe it all to my work at the University Daily Kansan.

Goals were made and reached. My life is forever changed after living in the beautiful hippie town of Lawrence, KS. My sunflower tattoo is my tribute to that stage in my life of constant learning and growing.

Well – there you have it: the meaning of my tattoos. Ultimately, these are for me and nobody else and if you have negative opinions about them I honestly couldn’t care less. 🙂

xoxo,

HB

 

Staying true to myself one bad day at a time

“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the simplest way.” – Ernest Hemingway

What a beautiful sentiment. These words have resonated so deeply with me since I first came across them. The Old Man and the Sea was one of my favorite books in high school and I’ve always admired Hemingway for his writing, so when I came across this quote of his, I vibed with it.

While this was written decades ago, I see it ringing true here and now in 2018. Our country is in chaos, the president of the U.S. is the laughing stock of the world and the headlines in news get worse each day so intensely that we’ve become desensitized to horrific violence happening all over our world.

But, back to the quote above.

About a year or so ago, I told myself I would be honest about my feelings and not hide in my hurting anymore. Today, I don’t feel like donning my typical wide-mouthed smile. And that is OKAY. Am I moping around like Eeyore? No. But am I hiding behind a smile and saying “fine” or “good” when people ask how I’m doing? Also no.

Life is hard. It’s hard for everyone in different ways and on different days. On a hard day, the easy way out is to simply grin and bear it and hope for a new day tomorrow. Well – not today, junior!

Y’all know I struggle with anxiety and depression. I’m not shy about admitting it. But, it’s still hard on days when I’m down and don’t want to get up. My typical response is to laugh it off, act extra happy and hope I can convince myself that I truly am.

Well, here’s how I’m feeling today:

  • tired
  • lost
  • in pain

I woke up on Monday with back pain that I haven’t experienced since my surgery (for those of you who don’t know, I had back surgery Dec 2015 on two herniated discs at the bottom of my spine). While my pain level isn’t anywhere near what it was pre-surgery, it still sucks. I haven’t been sleeping very well this week because of the pain and the anxiety this pain is causing.

Broken. Let down. Failure.

That’s how I feel. I’m 25 years old – why the hell am I dealing with 65 year-old health issues?! I get stuck on that question a lot, “why?” or “why me?” But, this isn’t healthy thinking.

Healthy thinking is believing in yourself. It’s staying on task so you feel accomplished checking off your to-do list. It’s working on your full self: mind, body and spirit. So today, I’m letting myself hurt. I’m accepting the back pain I’m dealing with today and challenging myself for a better tomorrow.

I know this blog isn’t quite as strong or captivating as my others, but this is for me. I’m writing down here and now that I am working on myself, for myself, by myself and won’t stop until I feel like I’ve reached the top of this mountain.

                        xoxo,

HB

 

Learning to let go

Hello again, my beloved readers. I know I’ve abandoned you for a couple months and I’m sorry for that, but – life happens.

The last time I wrote I was pouring out my indecisive tendencies and wishy-washy thoughts, concerned I hadn’t made the right life decision. But honestly, like, who ever makes the right “life decision”? Does every moment we witness not contribute to the grander picture of “life”? Anyway, I’m not in the mood to go psycho-analytical right now so I’ll leave that thought there.

By now you’ve seen everyone’s 2018 resolution posts and you’re definitely ~so over~ them already. So I’ll spare you that portion of my blog and get straight to the good stuff. Sometimes life sucks and sometimes it’s beautiful and unfortunately fate is a thing and we have no real control over what happens to us in our daily lives.

The second half of my 2017 in a nutshell: I quit my job in Little Rock, moved back to Dallas to be with my boyfriend, with no new job lined up. So many undecideds in my life, but I chose love and I am forever grateful for that decision. Since the move, I’ve been working as a barista at Starbucks, freelance writing and social media working here and there, but mainly, I’ve been lost. Emotionally, spiritually, physically – lost.

After some major soul searching (which, by the way, I’m still working on) I’ve decided how much I miss having more control over my life. I’ve let my barista schedule run my life, using my days off as an excuse to be lazy, and never giving myself the time and effort I needed and deserved to focus on me and my goals. When I’m not in control is when my anxiety really tries to take over. However, these past few months have been good for me in that struggle. Learning to let go of what is out of my control, while staying focused on what I can control is what I’m working on.

That being said, it’s time I take back control of my life. I was born to be successful. I’m social, outgoing, entertaining and determined to succeed in my personal and professional life. Every day, I’m promising myself to wake up and try my best to be happy and do whatever it takes to get there. I did not work my ass off and graduate from one of the top journalism schools in the country *Rock Chalk Jayhawk!* to be mediocre. One day, I’ll have bylines in magazines or on websites you read all the time.

I deserve happiness and success and I need to remind myself of that more often. Shoutout to my day ones who still cheer me on even while I am lost and confused and feel at a standstill. TRUST – y’all will be hearing from me more often.

xoxo,

HB

Does anyone think in black and white?

Less than 5 hours from now, I’ll be getting ready for another day in the world of Hannah. So naturally, my brain is going a mile a minute and I’m sitting here having lost a debate with sleep.

With too many things on my mind to simply list out, I’ll start with the one weighing heaviest: what the hell am I doing with my life? I know this may seem like a blanketed thought – and it is to a certain degree – but right now it’s more direct than usual. As I’ve shared with you all, I recently made a decision to step back from the corporate world, let my mind decompress and start a new part-time job as a barista.

This may sound like a fabulous beginning to an empowering drama, but sadly, my life is not a film and there’s no winning lottery ticket in sight. The immediate questions that pop into my mind tonight are: Is this going to work out? Am I going to have enough money to make ends meet comfortably and have fun? Did I make the right decision to move without a job lined up?

Different questions, all obtaining the same answer: I don’t know.

Now I’m judging myself for not knowing, because I’m 24 years old and should have a better idea in which direction to go, but then I remind myself I’m not a future teller and need to chill the fuck out. This 30-second thought train (anxiety is fun and may or may not include thinking 12 thoughts at once) has led me to a grander question: Does anyone think in black and white?

I truly want to know, because I’m not sure I’ve ever made a decision I was 100 percent sure of. Envious of those who seem to have a simpler way of decision making, I’m curious to know if anyone else has a dozen questions for each statement or thought that crosses their minds.

Of course, nobody knows what lies ahead because life happens and we can never be fully in control. We must simply ride the wave. But do some of you out there think more in terms of black and white, yes or no, instead of constantly lingering in the grey area? Because if so – teach me your witch-crafting ways.

I realize this blog is far different from my last one, which proudly disclosed my new life adventures. However, I promised myself I would be as transparent as possible, because I am so SICK of people on social media only portraying their good side and making their followers think life is purely happy all the time. So, here I am at midnight writing about my insecurities and second guesses.

What I have to remind myself is that time never stops and even if I never truly grasp this big ole meaning of life, the most important thing is to be mentally, physically and emotionally healthy, living life with a purpose. And that is what I promise to continue to strive for.

 

Unashamedly taking a step back

Life can get overwhelming…quickly. Whether you’re working too much or not enough, have bills swallowing you or a fully-furnished apartment equipped with cable and internet, it’s easy to get caught up and suddenly realize you’re in way over your head and need time to breathe.

Life in 2017 America is full of pressure: pressure to be successful, pressure to be pretty, pressure to be fit, pressure to be perfect. Adults in this country are expected to work 40+ hours a week, fully support themselves, workout daily, travel often and show off their material goods. All for what – affirmation that we’re following society’s ridiculous standards? Receiving recognition for all our accomplishments? Forget the countless nights of no sleep, early mornings, stressful days at work and god forbid more than one cheat meal per week.

Life is something you have; living, breathing creatures walk this planet, and if you are one of them, congratulations – you have a life. All right, before I tailspin off into an existential crisis, I’ll get to my point.

Life is for LIVING. That’s right, living, as simple as that. We all deserve to choose our own way to do so. The past couple of years, I’ve been working in the digital media and marketing industry. Since graduating from KU in 2015, I’ve left Kansas, moved back to Arkansas, moved to Dallas, moved back again to Arkansas and just moved back yet again to Dallas about a month ago. I’ve had two well-paying jobs for a 24-year-old with two different companies. Made some good friends through work, met a couple great mentors and learned a lot about myself.

The most important lesson I’ve learned recently, is what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to wake up each day dreading where I’m supposed to be, doing something that I’m not 100 percent passionate about and counting down the hours ’til I can go home and snuggle my dog in peace. I am a free spirit who needs to be able to explore, talk with people, hear their stories, share them with the world and walk around with a smile on my face.

When I moved back to Dallas, I didn’t have a new job lined up. I was suddenly unemployed and uncertain about what my next move would be. I unashamedly was taking a step back. Thankfully I have super supportive parents and an amazing boyfriend who helped me get on my feet. Going on about four weeks of funemployment, I’m happy to say I’ve secured a job as a barista at Starbucks and will be starting next week!

Some of you are probably sitting there judging me as I’m thrilled to share that I’m once again a barista (shoutout to my Sweetbay baes) and not currently “using my degree” for what it’s intended. But who fucking cares? I couldn’t tell you the last time I was this calm. My life has simplified and my over-analytical self has started to gradually ease into comfort. I can finally be on my feet every day at work, socializing with people and making them their favorite coffees and treats. I have time to focus on my writing and pursue freelance work on my own time, my own schedule.

Most importantly, my anxiety levels have decreased tremendously. Aside from the occasional freakouts (cue my weekly existential crisis), I wake up relaxed and go to sleep happy. Am I completely anxiety and depression free? No. Am I making plenty of money? Also no. But do I generally feel better each day and excited for what’s ahead? ABSOLUTELY.

Once I allowed myself to reconsider what it means to be a living, breathing adult in 2017, it’s like a whole new realm opened for me to explore. For now, I’ll be a barista and a writer. I may end up with enough Freelance work to make it my full-time career. I may end up pursuing a masters degree. Or, I may even end up back in the corporate world with the typical 9-to-5, who knows.

But what I do know, is we are all entitled to creating our own reality and pursuing our dreams, whatever they may be. Cheers to what’s in store!

What is life without a bucket list?

Overanalyzing my own way of thinking, I often wonder how others think. Not so much as to how their thought processes go, but more so their free thinking. I’ve always been a daydreamer; I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t let my mind wander to far places on any given day. These midday fantasies range anywhere from places I’ve been to favorite memories I’ve shared with my loved ones to countries I yearn to visit, and so on. Whether it’s one minute or five minutes, these little mindful getaways help ease my analytical brain.

As a creative daydreamer, it’s only natural I’ve been adding to my never-ending bucket list since I first learned what a bucket list was. Whether it’s a career-oriented bucket list, a travel bucket list, or just one long overall life experiences bucket list, everyone needs to have one. It doesn’t have to be written down anywhere, although I do advise to have it scribed somewhere, because in order to reach our goals we must visualize them daily. I’ve crossed a few things off my bucket list already, and am constantly adding new ventures to mine as well.

Here’s why it’s important to have your personalized bucket list:

Visualizing your goals and ambitions is crucial

As I mentioned earlier, in order to reach your goals and ambitions, you must visualize them daily. Whether this entails writing or saying out loud your personal mantra or glancing at your most recent goal on a list, it’s imperative to make these ideas and dreams come to fruition. Are you ever going to climb that 14er or finish that 5k if you don’t work toward it and think about it every day? Probably not (but if you do, please fill me in on your witch-crafting ways).

 

Pushing your limits creates growth

If you live inside your comfort zone and never stretch your abilities, you probably aren’t leading a very fulfilling life. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “life starts past your comfort zone” and I couldn’t agree more with that statement. Sure, trying new things, going new places and meeting new people can seem daunting at times. But, being able to accomplish these things is all about your perspective. Start with something small: go to a movie alone, walk around town without a plan or place to be, say hi to the person sharing the elevator with you. Baby steps will enable you to make this practice part of your every day life.

Crossing off an item on your bucket list is utterly satisfying

Most of us are familiar with to-do lists; you’ve most likely kept up with a planner in school, a daily to-do list at work, or your weekly reminder on your phone to do your laundry and clean the house. Imagine the feeling of crossing off a simple task and maximize it by 10. Bucket lists aren’t typically filled with easy achievements – they’re meant to hold your biggest and longest dreams and goals so you can finally cross them off one by one. Take out the trash? Send an email? Easy! Visit Tanzania, kayak in the Pacific Ocean, learn a new language? Not such a small task – but that’s where the major rewards are reaped.

My personal bucket list has more items on it than I can count, but a fair amount of them have already been accomplished. Travel to a new country? Check. Learn a new language? Check. Start my own website? Check. Move somewhere totally new and unknown? Check!

The euphoric feeling of crossing off an item or accomplishing a dream you’ve been working toward for months or even years is unmatched in my book. Get out there and try something new – I promise you won’t regret it.

The summer I fell in love…

with the world.

7.5 billion people on this beautiful planet. Can you even fathom knowing that many souls? Maybe you wouldn’t want to know everyone on Earth, but I do. Yes, I’m aware that may sound a bit crazy, but hear me out.

Would I want to meet every single person on this planet? Yes. Not because I’m trying to win Miss Popular over here (although that would help my awkward teenage self feel a little more validated), but because I want to know each individual story. Geeze, Hannah, crank up the cheese factor a little more, will ya!

I digress.

bay_bridge

2014 was a magical year for my adult self. A year filled with adventures, new beginnings, lessons, struggles, and accomplishments. It began with major excitement – I visited my brother in California for the first time and found my first true love: San Francisco. Sunny skies and a light breeze were the norm. You’d unknowingly walk past millionaire techies on the street because they dressed like your average joe. Food, music, and art filled this effervescent city. I’ve always been a huge fan of travel, but this trip kicked off my deep, everlasting case of wanderlust.

bedroom_view

Fast forward a couple months and I’m living in the city center of Regensburg, Germany. It’s a truly picturesque town where the cobblestone streets intersect with the Danube River and traditional German culture seeps out of centuries-old buildings. I lived above a cafe, which later became the namesake of my sweet pup, Ritz. Street bands were audible each afternoon and the corner ice cream shops were open seven days a week – a rarity in Bavaria.

I was studying there for a semester to help complete my German studies minor (yes, I can speak German; no, I’m not going to “say something” for you). This storybook city of roughly 190,000 residents stole my heart in less than a week. But that was only the beginning.

vienna_castle

München, Frankfurt, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Mallorca, Strasbourg – even Split, Croatia! I visited more countries in those six months than thousands of people do in their lifetimes, and trust me, I know how lucky that makes me.

Throwing yourself into unfamiliar situations makes you grow; navigating a foreign place sans internet and the native tongue can put some wear and tear on a person. Living overseas on a foreign continent opened my eyes more than I can put into words. They say challenges lead to growth and I sure see why! Travel can change your perspective; not only on certain places, but on people and cultures, too. You learn to wander with a sparkle in your eye and an open ear, just waiting for the next memorable moment to occur.

split_croatia

Terms like “wanderlust” and “the travel bug” fill thousands of blogs, social posts, websites, you name it. More often than not, I wonder if those using the terms truly encompass what they represent. To me, wanderlust is a way of life, not a phase where you’re obsessed with going new places and seeing new things. Once you’ve experienced even a fraction of this world, you can’t stop.

Experiencing several European countries on my own, in my early twenties, with half a college degree and some (un)forgettable nights under my belt, I found myself more accepting than ever before. Everyone is different. Each place in this world means something, for another reason than you may initially think. I encourage you to listen and observe. Stepping back, making yourself feel like a tiny fish in a large pond molds your sense of self and sheds a whole new light on just how big, or small, our wonderful world truly is.

Cheers to new adventures!

cheers_germany